§ VISCOUNT PEEL had given Notice to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the present situation in India; 724 to ask for a full statement of policy; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, your Lordships will have observed that I have put down this Motion about affairs in India in a rather general form. The truth is that the different topics which I wish to bring before your Lordships this afternoon are so much inter-connected that it is very difficult to put a more specific question in order to get an answer from the Government. Let me state at once the three points on which I wish to address your Lordships and on which I desire to elicit, if I can, some information from the Government as to their action. The first relates to the Report of the Commission presided over by Viscount Lee of Fareham: the second, broadly speaking, is the situation in some of the Provinces at the present moment: and the third is what I may call the general constitutional situation, with special reference to the Committee; which the Secretary of State for India set up to deal with that matter.
§ In dealing with the Report of Viscount Lee of Fareham's Commission let me, first of all, thank him very warmly for having enabled me to carry out the pledge I gave. When I was instrumental in setting up the Commission to inquire into the superior Services in India I stated that I trusted the Commission would not be of a rambling or roaming nature, but that it would be thoroughly businesslike and bring its operations to an end in the shortest possible time. I am most grateful to the noble Viscount and his colleagues for the way in which they addressed themselves to their work, with such rapidity, industry and despatch that they were able in the course of a few months in India to bring their laborious task to a termination.
§ But there is something more to be said on that point. Your Lordships who have studied that Report will also observe the most significant thing about the Report and a most rare occurrence nowadays in connection with Commissions— that there is no Minority Report. The proposals of the Lee Commission were unanimous, and those who are familiar with the great difficulties of the case, the divergence of the views expressed, the variety of opinions and the vast number of Papers placed before that Commission, will feel that the greatest credit is due to Viscount Lee of Fareham for having steered the Commission to a unanimous 725 goal and avoided all the quicksands on which it might have split. It would have reduced the Report, possibly, to a useless document if there had been a series of divergent Reports on this subject. I am most grateful to him and his colleagues for the sense of Compromise which has brought about this valuable Report.
§ I do not propose to go into the details of that Report to-day. It really falls under three important heads. There is the question of the increased Indianisation of some of the Services; the Provincialisation of certain Services, when they come under the head of "Transferred Subject" and are dealt with by Ministers in the Provinces; and a number of extremely important provisions for the improvement of the financial provision for the Services in various ways, and the security of the Services. In connection with the question of security I lay the greatest stress upon the advice as to the provision of a covenant for those who enter subsequently into the Services and for the setting up of the Public Services Commission, which it is proposed should have considerable powers both as regards recruiting and the discipline of the Services. I am sure our fellow-countrymen in India will pay great attention to those provisions which are intended to meet the medical needs of British officers in the Civil Services and their families.
§ Unfortunatety, it happens that there is a great deal of opinion in India at the present time which is rather averse from making proper financial provision for these Services. Partly, I think, it arises from the general tendency in India—I will not say to underpay, but not to overpay their officials, whether in the public Services or in business. There is a not unnatural feeling that Indians are cheaper and that if they had completely Indianised Services they would be able to procure those men on a less expensive basis. There is, of course, the desire that more posts should be filled by Indians themselves. But besides that there are, unfortunately, some elements in India which do not desire to improve the position of these Services because they think that by their decay and the unwillingness of young men in this country to enter them the bond between this country and India might be definitely weakened.726
§ The Services in India have had a great deal to put up with lately. There was, first, the terrible outburst of racial feeling in connection with the Gandhi agitation which, undoubtedly, diminished very much the amenities of life for officials in these Civil Services, more especially in the country districts. Moreover, they feel, and feel keenly, the uncertainty of their future and the diminished opportunities they might have for service in India owing to constitutional changes and the rapid Indianisation of the Services to which they belong. It is to the great credit of these officials that no one has ever challenged the complete loyalty of the Services to the reforms or their determination to carry them out to the uttermost, and work most faithfully and loyally for the reforms, even though they might bring about diminished opportunities for themselves.
§ After all, we ought to realise how great these changes are. There is, first, the constantly moving process from being executive bodies ruling policy to Civil Services in our sense of the word, where the Minister defines policy and the Service carries it out. Moreover, they have seen, through increased Indianisation, their chances of promotion and distinction being diminished in the future. This Report accelerates that Indianisation. Your Lordships will know that as regards the rapidity of Indianisation it considerably accelerates the process which was laid down under the arrangement in 1921, and, of course, the transfer of those Services which fall under the rule of the Provinces makes a considerable cut in the area over which the All-India Services will work. Coupled with all these difficulties there is also the financial problem from which these men are suffering. I am not going into the details but I hope Viscount Lee of Fareham, who is going to speak in the debate, will say something on that subject. But the financial difficulties of these men at the present moment must be considered not alone in isolation but in combination with the general causes of disturbance to which I have alluded.
§ What I feel is this—and this is one of the reasons why I desire to press upon the noble Lord opposite the necessity of putting this Report into execution as rapidly as possible—that the conditions in many of the Services are so grave that 727 there is a fear that, if comfort is not brought to them and their position improved, there may be a considerable exodus under the rules for taking proportionate pensions, the rights to take which have been extended, I think, to the year 1930. Your Lordships will readily realise that these retirements have a very great influence upon public opinion here, and that the reports which are brought back by the men who leave the Services in India necessarily have a great influence upon the young men who may be expected to go into those Services. Confidence must be restored, if possible. May I give an instance from my own knowledge? When I was at Balliol College, Oxford, that college was full of men who were going into the Services, and especially the Indian Civil Service. When I went down only last year to address them on some Indian subjects, I found, in that great college from which so many distinguished men have gone forth to govern India, that there were, I think, only two men who were then considering whether they should enter the Indian Civil Service. I need not remind your Lordships that you want more ability than ever and all the character that you can obtain from the young men who are going out to that work in the more arduous circumstances in which they will have to conduct their business in India.
§ An opportunity was to have been given, as the Secretary of State very well knows, for the discussion of these proposals in the Assembly. I very much regret that this opportunity was not taken during the recent Session. I understand that it was hoped that possibly a more favourable opportunity would be taken in September, and the noble Lord has stated—indeed, I think he has given a pledge—that he would not bring these proposals into action until that discussion had taken place. I must remind the Secretary of State of a matter which is, no doubt, present to his own mind, that the full responsibliity for the protection of those Services rests upon the Secretary of State. It is a remarkable thing that this responsibility is reiterated in the Report of my noble friend Lord Lee, and that the Report advises that this protection and responsibility should still rest with the Secretary of State as of yore.
§ I am aware that these proposals must cost money. I believe the cost is 728 estimated at about one and a quarter crores of rupees. I am bound to say that, in looking through the Report, I thought that the Commissioners had framed their advice with a very direct view to economy and with a very strict regard to the present financial situation in India, and that the proposals which they made for the general financial betterment of the Services were really almost the minimum that they could have advised. I am aware that it is not easy at the present time to find money in India for public Services, but I think your Lordships will agree with me that the proper payment and proper support of the Civil Service in any country should be a first charge upon the revenue, and cannot be postponed to any other requirements.
§ What I am going to ask the Secretary of State is this. I am going to ask him what he is doing at the present moment to clear the ground for the carrying out of the general proposals of the Report. I do not know whether I am wrong in saying that he is in general sympathy with them, but I think it should be added that I believe that all these proposals, with the exception perhaps of some that require Provincial legislation, could be carried out by Rules, and do not require legislation, so that the delays connected with legislation do not apply to them. I think it would be of great public advantage to those Services if a declaration could be made by the Secretary of State that he is doing all that he can, and as vigorously as he can, to frame Rules and to prepare to bring these proposals into shape. I think I am right in saying that, whatever financial decisions are arrived at, they will date back to April 1, and in that way, I believe, the members of the Services will not suffer. But, on the whole case, I cannot affect to deny to your Lordships how seriously I was impressed during the time that I was Secretary of State by the difficulties which those Services had to meet and by the great importance, in the interest of the Services, of good government in India and of providing the best men from here, that something should be done to alleviate and to strengthen their position.
§ There is one point which I should like to mention, though it is outside the Report and was not considered by the Commission which dealt with the superior Services, and that is the position of Europeans of British domicile in the 729 Provincial Services. These men do not possess the advantages which were given to men in the superior Services. I believe that, not only in the Government of India Despatch but also in the recommendations of the Joint Committee, it was urged that they should have the same rights as regards proportionate pensions and other advantages as would be given to members of the superior Services. But in 1921, when my predecessor was in office, these men were not included, and the reason stated, I think, in another place was that the Secretary of State had a closer degree of responsibility for the superior Services than for those who were engaged in the Provincial Services. No doubt that is true, but I think it is rather a technical ground. It is not a ground at least that ought to appeal to Parliament, because, after all, the present position of these men was brought about by the direct action of Parliament in passing the Act of 1919, and, whatever the Secretary of State may say, Parliament cannot divest itself of its responsibility. I believe that this matter has recently been brought before the noble Lord opposite, and I trust that he will give it his most sympathetic consideration.
§ The need for capable officials in the Civil Service has certainly not been lessened by the action of the non-co-operators in the Provinces. Your Lordships may remember that in the first Provincial Elections Mr. Gandhi had his way, and that those Elections were entirely boycotted by the non-co-operators. Possibly one result of that was that, both in the Provincial Councils and in the Assembly, a great deal of good work was done, and if those Indian politicians who are declaiming against the small amount of power and authority which they have been granted under the Act of 1919, would only look at some of the results of the useful legislation in the Provinces and the Assembly, I think they would be unable to deny that a great deal of liberty is accorded to them under that constitution. Then in these recent Elections, the second elections since the Act, a different policy was followed. There the followers of Mr. Das prevailed over those of Mr. Gandhi, and non-co-operators went in considerable numbers into these Councils and Assemblies. Of course, they entered not 730 for the purpose of assisting and carrying on administration, but for the purpose of bringing havoc into the administration and of destroying, so far as they could, all possibility of government in those Provinces where they had considerable numbers in the Council. I may remind your Lordships that one condition for the constitutional advance of India, as set out in the Act, is that there should be cooperation on the part of Indians, and it is rather paradoxical that these gentlemen should wish to prove their fitness for constitutional development and further powers, first, by abstaining altogether from entering the Councils and thus acquiring administrative experience, and secondly, by entering the Councils only for the purpose of trying to prevent them from acting.
§ I should like to illustrate what I have said by what has happened recently, both in the Central Provinces and in Bengal. Certainly no objection can be taken to the action of the Swarajists or non-co-operators on the ground of lack or thoroughness. In the Central Provinces the demands for money were rejected, and therefore, unless the Governor had used his powers, no money could have been raised at all for the purpose of carrying on the administration. In fact, the whole business of government would have been brought absolutely to a standstill, and it was necessary for the Governor to make such restoration as he could, but his powers only allowed him to restore grants on the existing scale. Therefore all improvements, all proposals for extension, and all proposals for administrative development, were thrown ruthlessly on to the scrap heap, and, generally, the Governor was forced to stereotype the position as it was when the Budget was brought in. I understand that for a time the Ministers remained in power, but later on the Assembly refused to vote their salaries, or voted merely ridiculous salaries. The result was that the Governor was forced himself to take over the work of the Transferred Subjects, and it is remarkable to note that by taking over this work the Governor was compelled to destroy that large measure of constitutional advance and freedom granted to the Provinces by enabling them to have Ministers dealing with certain subjects and responsible to their several Councils731
§ I am not sure, under the Act, how long this temporary conduct of affairs by the Governor can go on. It may be that he will have to continue in temporary charge of these affairs until there is some change of mind among the Swarajists, of which I am afraid at the present moment there is little hope, or until the people themselves are so disgusted by this travesty of government that he is able to dissolve the Council and perhaps obtain a wiser-minded Council. I should like to learn from the noble Lord opposite what will be the position of the Governor, because I do not know exactly how to construe the meaning of the word "temporary." I understand that only for a certain time can he carry on the administration. It may be that he will have to have recourse to the Secretary of State and the Governor-General in Council, and that the Transferred Subjects will have to be re-transferred and made Reserved Subjects, which, anyhow for a time, would place the whole administration under the Governor and Executive Council. That, of course, is a strong step, but it might be necessary if this chaotic administration, or absence of administration, in the Provinces continues. I should like to know whether the noble Lord contemplates that some such step will be necessary in the near future.
§ I pass to the Province of Bengal. In Bengal another situation arose, because not the whole of the Budget but only certain Votes were refused, and ridiculous salaries were voted for Ministers—two rupees per month, or something equally grotesque. There the Governor did not restore the Votes, but he proceeded to act in a perfectly constitutional manner. He gave notice to a large number of surgeons and assistant-surgeons—gave them three months' notice—and prorogued the Council, no doubt in the hope that the Swarajists would come to a better mind when they saw the necessary results of their action, and possibly when some of these gentlemen who were doing without their salaries would make themselves extremely unpleasant to their representatives. These Votes were attempted to be re-submitted to the Council, but the Swarajists had another string to their bow, and brought an injunction in the Courts asking that the Governor be restrained from putting these Votes before the Council. The Council was adjourned, and I should like the noble Lord to 732 explain what the situation is, how he proposes to deal with it, and how he proposes to support the Governor of Bengal in his efforts to continue good administration in that Province.
§ In connection with the position in Bengal I want to call the noble Lord's attention, and the attention of your Lordships, to a very remarkable statement made by Mr. C. R. Das. There was a resolution passed at a meeting at Serajganj, in Bengal, which, while condemning murder, praised the patriotism of the murderer of Mr. Day, the man who was murdered in mistake for a police officer in the open streets of Calcutta. Your Lordships will realise that praising the patriotism of a murderer of that kind might have a very grave effect upon a certain section of the youth of Bengal, more especially as the murderer bad been having dealings with a certain revolutionary gang. But this action of Mr. C. R. Das was followed by another statement in his paper Forward, which repeated what I may call the same offence. I might call attention to the fact that Mr. C. R. Das is a man of importance. He is mayor of Calcutta and was even offered office by Lord Lytton after the last Election. I hope that any proceedings which His Majesty's Government may think of taking against Mr. Das will not be suspended merely because he is a man of importance, and that action will not only be taken against persons who are of less importance and notoriety. The only reply on the subject which was given in another place is a very remarkable one indeed. It said that Mr. Gandhi disapproved of the murder. Exactly what that had to do with it I do not know, unless it is suggested that Mr. Gandhi is the keeper of the Government's conscience and that, he having disapproved of the murder, the Government is acquitted of any further action.
§ I should like further to ask one question of the noble Lord about events in the Punjab. We have discussed previously in this House problems brought up by the Akali movement and I should like to ask whether the noble Lord can tell us how the Government proposes to deal with that problem. I need hardly say I ask that question with the fullest confidence in the ability, energy and judgment of Sir Malcolm Hailey, the present Governor, 733 but these matters have been long in issue, and I should like to know if the Secretary of State will tell us why it was that the Committee under General Birdwood failed to make peace and to restore order among the recalcitrant Sikhs. Was one of the reasons why it failed that they made it a condition of assenting to their proposals that the Maharajah of Nabha, who was, in circumstances familiar to your Lordships, dispossessed of his Government, should be restored to that State?
§ One incident I should like to refer to, because it is of great interest as showing the falsehood of many of those; accusations brought against our rule in India, implying that Indian finance is wrested and diverted from its proper aim in the interests of either British manufacturers or British business. I think the Secretary of State, as your Lordships may have observed, has already assented to an Act placing heavy duties upon steel and other iron products imported into India, and I believe that the Government of India reserve the right under the Act, if those duties are not high enough, of themselves increasing them by executive order. In that case there has, I believe, been no pretest made, or no indignation shown by those very interests in this country which might be expected to suffer from those high duties. Moreover, it must have been a trial for the Labour Government which, I understand, is a Free Trade Government, to have assented to that high degree of Protection, because it is Protection in its most acute form. There are very few businesses in India which deal with steel, and whose competition among themselves might have reduced the price, so that the probability is that the increased price will fall mainly upon the consumer. And I think it is generally understood that that Protection was put on, not for many businesses, but for one only, the great Tata industry, in which a great deal of Indian money is invested.
§ I am sorry that I cannot claim that the return for that action has been a very ready one in Indian quarters. Last October the Municipality of Bombay passed a Resolution for the general boycott of British goods, Not very long ago it was proposed in that Council that that Resolution should be rescinded; unfortunately, it was not rescinded, but (the consideration of it was postponed sine die. 734 Another instance of the same unfortunate tendency that I have observed is that very recently the Allahabad Municipal Board advertised for tenders for stores for the use of the municipal workshops in 1924–1925, and on the tender was written: "Continental and American manufactured articles should be distinctly shown as they will be preferred." I very much regret that there is not a little more reciprocity between India and ourselves in these matters.
I may now approach the general subject with which I have to deal; that is to say, the movement for constitutional change in India. I have often heard it said by prominent Indians: "You have promised us self-government or Home Rule; why do you not carry it out at once?" I have often asked them where that particular promise was definitely enshrined. I have looked at the Government of India Act, 1919, and I find that there this so-called promise is hedged about by very particular conditions. First of all it is stated in the Preamble that
… the time and manner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples.
And it goes on—
And whereas the action of Parliament in such matters must be guided by the co operation received from those on whom new opportunities of service will be conferred, and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility …
The actions in the Provinces which I have recited do not show a very great response, I am bound to say, to that suggestion.
But, further than that, in Section 41 it is laid down that at the expiration of ton years after the passing of the Act, with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament, there shall be a Commission sent out. What has that Commission to do? It has to report upon matters connected with the institutions of British India, and these are the words of the section:—
… the Commission shall report as to whether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify, or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing therein.
I submit, therefore, that the broad statement that in that Act self-government
was promised to India must be taken with a great deal of qualification.
§ I should like to refer in this connection—because it bears upon the interrogation which I wish to put to the Secretary of State—to some Resolutions which, I believe, have been presented to the India Office, and. signed by Mr. Sastri and other prominent Indians, who are not supposed, at any rate, to represent the extreme Swarajist view. They first of all claim that India should draft her own Constitution—thereby, I think, going directly contrary to the Act of 1919. Their proposals shortly are that the central civil government of the Viceroy shall be carried on by the Viceroy, with a Cabinet responsible to the Indian Legislature, the defence of the country and foreign affairs remaining in the hands of the Viceroy until the responsible Government of India is ready to take them over. It is also suggested that a Commission should be sent out to India in the coming autumn with wide terms of reference. I am not sure what that Commission would do, because, if India itself should draft its own Constitution, I presume that the duty of that Commission would only be to register the Constitution so drafted.
§ These are some of the representations and some of the influences which are now being brought to bear upon the Secretary of State, and it is in the light of representations of that kind that I want to examine the exact procedure that has been followed by the Secretary of State as regards the Committees that he has set up in India. I should like to say, before coming to that, however, that there are a great many objections to having every ten years a Commission for the purpose of examining, inquiring into, and rooting up the working of the Constitution in India. There is one great advantage that might come out of it, and that is that within those ten years you should be free from constitutional agitation in India, and the people in India should be ready to carry on the administration free from these disturbing constitutional agitations which, we know, are so troublesome both in this country and in India. But if during those ten years, and even shortly after the first Legislative Assembly, you are to be again brought into a turmoil of constitutional action you get the worst of both worlds.736
§ Committees have been set up by the Secretary of State—first of all, one of officials and then one with non-officials added, with a wider reference, for inquiring into the working of the machinery of the Act and into the defects which there may be in the working of that machinery. I should like to know, first of all, what was the particular experience and what were the particular defects which led the noble Lord to set up this machinery. It was only last year that I made the suggestion to the Viceroy, which he readily accepted, that with a view of having a great body of experience, collected together before the Commission went out—which in the ordinary course would be in the year 1930—he should have yearly Reports from the different Provinces as to the working of the Constitution in those Provinces. I do not know whether those first Reports have shown any serious defects in the working of the Constitution, but it is rather rapid, I think, after only three years, to set up a Committee of Inquiry into those defects. I should like to know from the Secretary of State what are the leading defects which caused him either to suggest himself, or to assent to proposals from the Government of India, to set up that particular Committee.
§ Perhaps he would be good enough to define a little later what are "defects" in the working of the Constitution. It is not, so far as I know, a term of art. It is a vague term which might be very generally interpreted. For instance, there are a great many persons who think the diarchy is a defect of the Constitution. But, after all, there are powers within the Rules, as the noble Lord knows, to make all the Reserved Subjects in the Provinces Transferred Subjects simply by action taken under the Rules and without legislation. Again, it came before me very forcibly many times during my tenure at the India Office that the Government of India thought that very serious defects in the Constitution lay in the fact that the Secretary of State for India had too much control over the Government of India. Under the Rules a great deal of power can be transferred to the Government of India and the Viceroy, and I should like to know whether those are considered to be defects in the machinery, or really something wider. In regard to the transfer of powers from the Secretary 737 of State to the Viceroy, the loosening of the control of the Government of India over the Provinces and in many ways a great deal can be done under the Rules which would so alter the balance of the existing Constitution that it could be almost described as a new one.
§ I am aware that in the reference that has been given to this Committee the Secretary of State has tried to guard himself by saying that these changes should be within the structure of the Constitution; but a Constitution is a very, very fluid thing. I think it would be very difficult to define, for instance, what our Constitution is. It is more easy to define what a written Constitution is. There are very wide limits, it seems to me, within which that Committee might work. I want to ask this further question. I was examining the speeches which were made by Sir Malcolm Hailey, before he took over the Governorship of the Punjab, in the Assembly with the concurrence, of course, of the Secretary of State, and which were quoted the oilier day by the Under-Secretary in another place, because not only is this Committee operating with a wide reference, but it appears that it may be only a preliminary to even wider action on the part of the Government of India and the Secretary of State.
First of all, we go outside the Rules, and Sir Malcolm says—
It may even be … that the Inquiry may show that some changes are required in the structure of the Act in order to rectify the definite and ascertained defects experienced in the actual working.
In his speech, ten days later, he went further and said—
Before His Majesty's Government are able to consider the question of amending the Constitution, as distinct from such amendment of the Act as may be required to rectify any administrative imperfections, there must be full investigation of any defects or difficulties which may have arisen …
At the end he states that—
… if our inquiries show that no advance is possible without amending the Constitution then the question of advance must be left as an entirely open and separate issue upon which the Government is in no way committed.
I want to call attention to two points in that speech. The first is that it seems to he suggested that this Inquiry may be followed, when it has reported, by some other and wider Inquiry into the Constitution
itself. I am very anxious to press for an answer from the noble Lord as to what this further Inquiry is which he seems to contemplate.
§ The last of the statements made says that the problem is to be an "open and separate issue." How can it be an open and separate issue? You will have had an Inquiry which shows that there are certain defects in the working of the Constitution which are more than defects in the working and which cannot be remedied by matters under the Rules. He calls it an open and separate question, but is it not obvious that the question must be prejudiced to some extent? There would be plenty of people who would press him to a further line of action when this Committee of Inquiry had decided that there were defects which were not remediable under the Rules.
§ Why I have laid so much stress upon that is this. I may be wrong but, watching carefully the operation of His Majesty's Government, they seem to me really to be slipping from one position to another. They may very easily arrive at a situation in which they will, as it were, get behind the Act of Parliament which says that these constitutional changes and advances are not to be made without investigation conducted by a Commission set up by Parliament. You really are or might be transferring to the Indian Assembly that right of setting up its own Constitution which is claimed by these gentlemen who have sent their report to the Secretary of State, but which is clearly not admitted in any way by the Act setting up the existing Constitution. Now possibly some colour is given to my interpretation of this by the fact that it is said that Mr. Ginha laid stress upon these particular passages which I have quoted, that Mr. Ginha accepted a position on this Committee, and that he only accepted a position on the Committee on the understanding that there was to be some wider constitutional investigation which was to follow the narrower operations of this Committee. I should be much obliged if the noble Lord is able to dispel that suggestion that has been made, because, after all, we want to come to an issue upon this point.
§ The Secretary of State has declared that the Swarajists are aiming at the same matter as we are ourselves and that they are the Constitutional Opposition. 739 Does he, therefore, admit their claim that they shall be allowed now to draw up their own Constitution in India, or does he stand by the operations of the Act of 1919 under which this matter is to be settled in its own time by Parliament and by a Commission sent out to advise the Government of the time? I have always deeply regretted that the Indian politicians have not addressed themselves more vigorously to the work of carrying out the present Constitution. If they had diverted one-tenth of the energy they have shown in standing out of the Constitution, obstructing that Constitution and making the working of it difficult, India would now be far more advanced than it is at present on the road to constitutional reform and change.
§ I have always held, as one having to watch the working of it very closely for two years or more, that it really was not at all certain that this Constitution, framed very largely on Western models, would be the most suitable for constitutional development in India. Therefore I thought that it was most important that you should have a quiet, orderly development in order that those watching the growth and development of the Constitution by custom and usage should see in what direction Indian thought and Indian feeling most particularly tended. But you have had the whole thing thrown into the melting pot and destroyed by this non-co-operation, and there is no possibility of working the Constitution in the way it should be worked in order that these developments may be observed and ascertained. It always strikes me rather as a paradox that the people who are most opposed to the infiltration of Western ideas, and who are asserting that the present movement in India is largely due to opposition on the part of the East to these Western ideas, are the very people who wish to drink most deeply of those ideas, and who are only complaining because larger instalments of Western institutions and Western political ideas are not more freely granted to the people of India.
§ I have had a great many very interesting conversations with prominent Indian politicians, and I should like to say any personal relations that I have had with Indians have always been of the most agreeable kind, but I have been very 740 much struck by the fact that so few of them were willing to realise the great inherent difficulties of a democratic development in India. I have spoken very often to people of both the Moslem and Hindu faiths of the Moplah disturbances, and of the troubles in Calcutta, Delhi and elsewhere, as symptoms of the strong feeling that there is between these communities, and the answer usually was this: "Why, they are little more than the feeling between Protestant and Catholic in your own country, and as soon as we have Home Rule you will see that all these things will disappear." I have also put to them the suggestion that probably a great deal of the feeling and the disturbance among Moslems nowadays in India, now that the difficulties over Turkey have been settled, are due to the fact that many of these Moslems are apt to regard Hindu Home Rule as really Hindu Rule, but that suggestion also has always been brushed aside. I have asked them whether difficulties of caste would not be an obstacle in the way of democratic government in our sense. Again I was told: "Oh no, caste is rapidly melting away, and you find that these difficulties are disappearing." I said: "How, with these difficulties, will you defend yourselves and build up a homogeneous Army?" I was told again: "There is no difficulty in that at all. As soon as Home Rule is set up in India those difficulties will disappear and these Armies will be established."
§ As for myself, I find it very difficult to believe that India really can skip all the experience and training that have been found necessary for the setting up of democratic rule in other countries. There are very strange rewritings of history nowadays. I suppose no one would try to establish that the Mogul rule in India was democratic, and that under that rule, the people obtained useful lessons in democratic government. I submit to the Secretary of State and to your Lordships that it would really be a terrible thing if, by hastening the pace too much—if, by undue precipitancy—we were to wreck or bring disaster to this difficult constitutional development in India. It would be very dangerous if you were to pour too quickly the heady wine of our Western institutions into the ancient framework of a very old civilisation like that of India. Anyhow, whatever happens, and if failure 741 does come through undue precipitancy, your Lordships may rest assured that blame will not attach to those Indians who are anxious to increase their constitutional development, but will be borne and laid in full measure on the shoulders of the people and Government of this country.
§ Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers with reference to the present situation in India.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ VISCOUNT LEE OF FAREHAM
My Lords, I do not often trouble your Lordships' House, and if I have to make this afternoon a somewhat substantial draught upon your patience it is only because I am constrained to do so by the deep and, as I think, natural anxiety that I feel with regard to the fate of the labours of the Commission over which I had the honour to preside, and to which my noble friend Lord Peel has made such generous reference. I can assure the Secretary of State and His Majesty's Government that in any remarks which I make I am actuated by no captious or hostile spirit. That, I think, is sufficiently shown by the fact that I have preserved, at any rate for four months, an unbroken silence in public with regard to this matter, which to me appears one of considerable urgency, but I must point out that on the other hand His Majesty's Government, so far as their definite intentions are concerned, have preserved an equally unbroken silence. Meanwhile, the only reports which reach us from India with regard to the action that is likely to be taken are by no means reassuring.
I will say at once that so far as theoretical acceptance of the main recommendations of the Commission are concerned I have no cause for complaint. On a previous occasion in your Lordships' House, on June 3, a statement was read out by the Secretary of State apparently entirely favourable to the main conclusions of the Commission, and referring in. particular to an announcement made in the Assembly at Delhi in which first of all attention was drawn to the urgency of the matters dealt with by the Report, and, secondly, emphasis was laid upon the power of the Secretary of State to take a decision in advance of any discussion by the Assembly in any matters which in his view were of an urgent character. I assume that the attitude 742 taken up by the Government on that occasion represents their mind to-day, but I feel bound to ask what has become of the point of urgency upon which stress was laid on the previous occasion, and the particular reservation reasserting the powers of the Secretary of State to take action in advance of the discussion in the Assembly?
That, as pointed out by my noble friend Lord Peel, is inherent in the constitutional position of the Secretary of State. It was emphasised not less by him than it was, I think, by the noble Lord who is now Secretary of State for India. All I wish to point out at the moment is that not merely has no action been taken, but there has been a Parliamentary claim that no action—or no decision I think was the phrase—on questions of principle or policy should be taken until after the discussions in the Assembly in September. I am not clear as to what questions of policy and principle mean in that connection, or whether that debars the Secretary of State from taking any action upon matters which are not really matters of principle or of policy, but practical questions, such as, for example, the grant of passages to the Services. It will be obvious that in a question like that arrangements have to be made a long time beforehand with the individuals concerned and the shipping companies, as it is almost impossible to get a passage from India to England in any given winter if you defer arrangements until the last moment. I trust that this is not a question of policy or principle which it is considered cannot be dealt with in advance by the Secretary of State. In any case a pledge has been given, and a pledge given by His Majesty's Government must be observed. Therefore, I have no more to say on that point, except that I trust that the noble Viscount is correct when he said that he hoped the Secretary of State and the Government of India were getting ready, getting all their Committees set up and the preliminaries settled, so as to enable them to take action immediately after the discussion has taken place in the Assembly and thus ensure that there will be no further delay.
After the experiences I had in India I feel bound to sound a note of warning with regard to the effect upon the morale and efficiency of the Services, still more on their recruitment and the retirements 743 which are taking place, if this matter is unduly delayed and action is not ultimately taken. I can assure your Lordships that there is none of that pathetic contentment in the Services in India which Mr. Montagu detected when he was Secretary of State and, I understand, deplored in the Indian population. On the contrary, there is a very lively discontent and an ever-deepening anxiety with regard to the present and future position of the Services. After hearing the case fully stated there is, I think, considerable excuse for their attitude of mind in this matter. After all, there has been no great hurry, no indecent haste, in dealing with their grievances, and that is an additional reason why I feel justified in pressing His Majesty's Government to pay heed to the unanimous and emphatic declaration of the whole Commission, Indian and British members alike, that the Report should be accepted as a whole, and acted upon without delay.
May I recall the past history of this question of the grievances of the Services in India? It is not a new thing at all. It is now some twelve years since the need for redressing these grievances was publicly recognised by the appointment of the Islington Commission. It was appointed at the end of 1912, sat for two and a half years, and then, owing to the circumstances of the war, its Report was not completed and presented until five years after it first sat. And it was not until seven years from the time it was appointed that any Orders based upon its recommendations were passed. By the mere passage of time and changed conditions most of its recommendations became entirely obsolete. Then ensued three more years during which a very leisurely, and in some eases dilatory, examination was made by various Governments in India. Finally, in February, 1922, a deputation was received by the Viceroy, the net result of which was that it was not denied that the Services had made out a case for redress but it was pointed out that in the then existing financial situation in India it was impossible to do anything for them.
It was a mere non possumus, and whether it was justified or not I ask your Lordships to consider how this situation strikes these great Services in India. They are told that there is no money available to meet their urgent needs, and 744 simultaneously they see millions being spent—I do not know how much the latest estimate is—upon the creation of a new Capital, new executive offices, and new Departments, in which these civil servants are to work. In effect, they are told: "We cannot afford to meet your grievances because we are spending all the money on erecting these palatial buildings in which you are to work." It strikes them with an irony which is apt to turn to bitterness. There is no doubt that their patience and morale had reached almost breaking point when the Royal Commission over which I presided was appointed. It was anticipated by some that the labours of that Commission would not be completed in less than two years, but the members of the Commission felt that the case was so urgent that we devoted all our energies to conclude our Inquiry with all possible speed, and we produced, as the noble Viscount has said, a unanimous Report in six months.
The position to-day, apparently, is that more time is required for consideration—the rest is silence. I have pointed out that twelve years have been consumed in examination of this question and that meanwhile nothing practically has been done to implement the recommendation made by the Montagu-Chelms-ford Report that something ought to be done—I think it said immediately—to restore the pay of the Services to something like the attractions it presented twenty years ago. Nothing has been done and, as a result—no one regrets it more than I do—there has undoubtedly developed a feeling of discontent based upon not merely lack of security but also, I am afraid, in many cases, lack of support, on the top of financial harassments which any one who will take the trouble to read the Report of the Commission will see are of a most real character. I do not know whether your Lordships realise that the Services in India, unlike the Services at home, received no war bonus, no recognition of changed prices as a result of the war, and that therefore, they are in an immeasurably worse position than the Services at home, whose position, in fact, has been considerably improved. This has, as it must have, a most demoralising effect upon the Services, and one which it must be in the interests of India, no less than of the British Empire as a whole, to remove.
745 On the other side, there is a great deal of political feeling amongst Indians in India that Indianisation and Provincialisation are not proceeding as rapidly as the pledges of the British Parliament and Government would have led them to hope. I do not know how many times I heard the charge that the British were holding back, that they were not carrying out their pledges and that they never would carry them out except as the result of force and agitation. I believe that to be profoundly untrue, but in any case the Report of the Commission sought to allay both these causes of unrest and dissatisfaction, so far as they appeared to be reasonable and legitimate, and we feel that these are the chief and sufficient reasons why the Report should be brought into operation without further delay.
The position to-day is one of such suspense, not only for present members but for possible members of the Services, that recruitment has practically dried up at the Universities and schools, whereas a few years ago—certainly in my day —the Indian Civil Service was looked upon as the blue riband of all the public Services. It was the thing for which the best intellects that we had in our public schools and Universities competed with the utmost closeness. Now, we find that even the Indian Civil Service itself is looked at askance, and candidates are not coming forward. Meanwhile, a most regrettable exodus is going on at the top among some of the best men in the Services, who feel that the present financial conditions are so intolerable that they can remain no longer. I see that my noble friend Lord Incheape is present, and I should like to ask him, if he is taking part in this debate, whether he has found it possible in his many great businesses in India to enlist young men of the requisite stamp upon terms no more favourable than those which were offered before the war. It will be obvious from the Report that enormously higher terms are now being offered in the business world, and unless some great change has come over my noble friend I cannot think that he is actuated in this matter by mere sentimental philanthropy. The present position is, as it seems to me, deplorable, and must be alleviated, unless we are prepared to say that we are going to step out of our responsibility in India and haul down the flag. There is at this moment an urgent 746 need for a recruiting campaign for the Services, a campaign in which I should greatly like to be able to take part; and I shall certainly offer my services in that respect if and when the recommendations of the Royal Commission are adopted. But, frankly, I cannot in the meanwhile conscientiously take part in recruitment, and I know that many others are in the same case.
I do not wish to go into details, and I have no desire on this occasion to enlarge upon the particular recommendations of the Report. It is reasonably brief and, I hope, speaks for itself. What I am anxious to do is to try to elicit from the Secretary of State, speaking on behalf of the Government of India also, what is the exact position, and to impress upon them, as I am endeavouiing to do, the dangers which result from delay. I am not making any criticism, I am imputing no blame to any one, and I am not suggesting that the delay occurs more on this side than in Simla, or vice versa. I assume that both Governments are in the closest possible consultation, and that any responsibility which is assumed is a mutual one. But I feel bound to say, in passing, that the normal working of Government machinery in India is of a peculiarly deliberate character. I speak only as one who has had something to do with administration in this country, but I am bound to say that I was startled almost out of belief when I found that distinguished gentlemen in the position of Cabinet Ministers in India have no private secretaries, that they answer their own telephones and that the business of minute writing has reached such a pitch that the unfortunate officials, like the babes in the wood, are almost smothered by the constant stream of descending files. How it is possible under those conditions to deal expeditiously with these serious matters I am quite unable to understand. That may possibly account for some of the past delays in dealing with these matters, but it can hardly cover the present position.
I wish to suggest to your Lordships that there is very little that is new in the Report of the Royal Commission. After all, the questions with which it deals have been examined and re-examined, have been discussed and re-discussed ad nauseam for a decade, and what is wanted now is that someone will deliver 747 judgment, now that the jury, in the shape of the Commission, has rendered its verdict. What I am anxious to discover is what it is that stands in the way. I am aware that a pledge has been given that there must be discussion in the Assembly and the Legislatures, and in theory I entirely agree that this is the proper and constitutional procedure. It there were any reasonable prospect of the present majorities in the Assembly, and in the Legislatures, for instance, of the Central Provinces and Bengal, giving fair and reasoned attention to this matter, I should not demur to the delay.
But we must face the facts which have been disclosed by my noble friend Lord Peel in his speech this afternoon, and we must take seriously the position which was developing in the most intense form before the very eyes of the Commission whilst it was in India. This throwing out of the Budget, this refusal to vote the salaries of Ministers, and all these extreme illustrations of non-co-operation, took place under our very eyes, and it was clear that they were actuated by hostility to the Constitution, and a desire to make government impossible and to embarrass the Administration in every possible way.
Are these the tribunals, in their present mood, to which the findings of the Commission and the fate of the Services are to be submitted? Can there be any possible doubt as to what the result will be? Is it likely that majorities which have thrown out the Budget, and refused to vote the salaries of Ministers, and done so with the avowed object of wrecking the Constitution, are now going to say: "Ah, now let us do the generous thing by the European Services?" That requires an amount of faith in the good intentions of these bodies which I am frankly unable to understand. If I am justified in these forebodings, I feel bound to ask the Government what its policy really is, I can understand a policy of evacuation; I can understand a policy of what is commonly called keeping the flag flying; but I cannot understand a policy of maintaining the Constitution and the position in India with the help of Services which are discredited and discouraged, ill-paid, and suffering from acute financial anxiety.
I referred just now to the high aspirations of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report in this connection, and much stronger language was used subsequently 748 by the then supreme head of the Services in India, Lord Chelmsford, when Viceroy. The language which he used was so classic and so important that I feel bound to quote one or two passages from it. When speaking in the Legislative Assembly on February 6, 1919, he said:The Services of India have just come through a long period of exceptional strain. … But they have risen superior to all these things, and as Viceroy I am proud and glad to acknowledge on behalf of my Government the part they have played in keeping India contented and quiet, and in helping to win the war. And now the war is over, and they seem to see before them difficulties and sacrifices greater still. I want the Services to know that my Government and I are fully cognisant and deeply appreciative of all these things.He went on to say:—And government, believe me, is not the simple thing that it may sometimes seem. The help of the Services, trained, efficient, impartial, with their high standards of duty, of character, of the public interest, is absolutely essential if this vast experiment is to succeed. We cannot afford and we do not mean to lose them until India acquires what she has not got at present, something approximately as good to put in the place.Now mark these words:—The Secretary of State and I have declared our intention to protect the Services in the defence of their rights and the discharge of their duties. I see that apprehensions have been aroused by the general character of this phraseology. Let me now, speaking for myself and my Government, endeavour to give precision to the undertaking. In the first place as regards their pay and pensions. I propose that the pay, pensions, leave and conditions of service generally of the Services recruited from England shall he guaranteed at least by statutory orders of the Secretary of State, which no authority in India will have power to disregard or vary.He concluded his remarks under this head by saying:—I will merely add that the Government of India will always regard this question of the fair treatment of the Services as one of the cardinal tests by which our great experiment will be judged.That was the attitude of the Government of India at that time. I cannot but believe that it must be the attitude of the Government of India to-day, and certainly it must be the attitude of any Cabinet of which Lord Chelmsford himself remains a member.
The position, as I understand it, remains unchanged. The Secretary of State is still responsible, the last resort 749 of the Services. That was recognised by the Commission, and it was the deliberate policy of both the British and Indian members of the Commission that in the fast resort, and only in the last resort, that power should be exercised by the Secretary of State, because the Commission felt that it would have been dishonourable on our part to put before the Services alleviations of their grievances which were of an unreal or possibly illusory character. We were convinced that the future of India, and the success of the reforms, depended upon a right solution of this problem of the Services. It was not our business—and I hope we kept within the limits of our terms of reference—to revise the Constitution, but it was our business, we considered, to try to make it work and that was the mainspring of all our recommendations, behind which there was no kind of arrière pensée. If the balanced and honourable compromise which our recommendations represented was not upset, we felt that the result would be to give reasonable stability and contentment to the Services, and without those things no reforms, no constitution, and no scheme which could be devised for the Government of India, could possibly succeed. I go further and suite my belief that unless the morale and contentment of the Services be restored, it will be the first step on the road to our losing India altogether.
I have only this to say in conclusion, that I do ask you to believe that in this matter of pressing for the adoption of the Report of the Commission neither I, nor any of my late colleagues, is actuated by any feeling of amour propre. If I maybe allowed to paraphrase the Geddes Report, we were men of good will and our unanimity was the fruit of conviction. We felt, in addition, that it might be a good omen for the future of India that a mixed Commission of Englishmen and Indians, in a matter so highly controversial, raising all kinds of feelings, racial and otherwise, should have been able to show themselves united and co-operating in the common cause of Indian progress. We started with no illusion or idea that we should get success in our work or credit for what we attempted to do. Speaking for myself, I have no Indian past and certainly have no Indian future, but I strove throughout to maintain a balanced mind and to give an impartial 750 verdiet. I only wish to add that I believe this is a fleeting opportunity, unique in many ways, and I implore His Majesty's Government and the Government of India to seize it. I do not believe it can ever occur again, and I give this as my deliberate view, after the most anxious consideration of the whole position, that after all the past history, unless the Report of the Commission is accepted as a whole the Commission will have, more than failed, because it will have stirred up feelings and produced a state of affairs worse than, that which it set out to remedy. Against such a dénouement as that, with all its disastrous consequences, I feel it my duty this afternoon to utter the most solemn warning in my power, and I trust my words may carry some conviction.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD OLIVIER)
My Lords, I realise that other noble Lords desire to take part in this debate, and I greatly regret that the advanced hour makes it necessary that, in fairness, I should give my reply at this moment to the noble Viscount, because the noble Viscount has asked me for a full statement of policy. He has given me a good many subjects on which he requires categorical replies. It must necessarily take me so long to give a full statement that if I were to defer it until after we had heard the other noble Lords who desire to speak there would be really no time for me to receive that advice and criticism on my statement which I so value from the noble Marquess opposite.
In the first place, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, for having relieved me of part of my task by the very grateful recognition which he has made of the work done by the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham. I am also very grateful to the noble Viscount for placing before the House so eloquently and so feelingly the case of the Civil Services which he deals with in his Report. I associate myself entirely with all that he has said with regard to the claims of those Services to the consideration which he has tried to secure that they shall be accorded. So fully do I do so that I desire as succinctly as I can to review the position out of which the Report of Lord Lee's Commission arises.
The case for endeavouring to redress the diminution of income from which 751 public servants in India have suffered during recent years is briefly but cogently stated in the fifth chapter of the Report of Lord Lee's Committee. The facts are not in dispute. Two years before the war a comprehensive Inquiry had been held into the conditions of all the Indian Services by a Royal Commission under the presidency of the noble Lord, Lord Islington. The present Prime Minister and Mr. H. A. L. Fisher were also members. Mr. Gokhale, who died before the Commission reported, was the most eminent Indian representative. The local investigation had been completed—it took nearly two years and every Province in India was visited—but before the Commission's conclusions could be put into operation the war broke out and the Indian Government, faced with more urgent responsibilities, had perforce to let action on the Report stand over. The delay, though quite unavoidable, was the more to be regretted because the last previous general Inquiry into the Indian Public Services had been held over thirty years before, and in the meantime entirely new Services, such as the Agricultural and Veterinary Services, had come into existence.
During the period of the war the need for financial relief to the Services became more acutely felt. Prices rose and officers stayed on in the Service who would other wise have retired under the age limit. The rate of promotion was thus retarded and the junior ranks of the Services suffered accordingly. On the other hand, many of the younger members joined the fighting forces. In the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, the branch of the Service to which civilian Indian officials were naturally assigned, casualties were heavy and this war wastage, coupled with the inevitable shortage of recruits in the period immediately following the Armistice, added to the difficulties of recruiting the Services, already seriously affected by the reduction in the value of the emoluments offered.
It is necessary to remember, as the noble Viscount, Lord Lee, has mentioned, that no general scheme of temporary relief by way of war bonus, such as had been granted to the Home Service and most of the Colonial Services, was applied in India. This was because the Report of Lord Islington's Committee, which was still awaiting action, had 752 established beyond question the necessity for a revision of the permanent scale of pay of the principal Services. It was clear from it that no system of temporary bonuses would suffice. Immediately after the Armistice the problem was taken up with all possible promptitude. New scales of pay, as well as new leave and pension rules, were settled and promulgated in 1919 and 1920 on the basis of the Islington Commission's recommendations, supplemented in some respects by those of Mr. Montagu and the noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford, whose Report on Constitutional Reform had also touched on Civil Service grievances.
Generally speaking, these new scales of pay fixed in 1919 represented a substantial improvement when expressed in terms of percentages, but—and this is the outstanding fact and one that still governs the situation—the increases of pay did not, indeed could not, keep pace with the rise in the cost of living in India. The object of the Indian Government and of the India Office was that something should be done "towards restoring the real pay of the existing Services to the level which proved effective twenty years ago." This object was not attained. The rise in the cost of living for a European in India between 1914 and 1923 amounted to at least 60 per cent. No Service received an increase even approaching that figure. The average increase, taking a man's pay throughout his period of service, was round about 20 per cent. In the case of the Indian Civil Service, whose pay had been relatively high before the war, the increase was less than 10 per cent.
There are circumstances incidental to service in India that make the rise in the cost of living exceptionally burdensome to officers of European domicile, and especially to those who are married and have families: for instance, the necessity of coming home on leave periodically in order to keep fit, and of sending their children home for education. Thus the provision of passages, the cost of which, even by the cheapest class, nearly doubled between 1914 and 1921 and still rules very high, is a crushing burden to a married officer with a family. Again, the officer working in the plains of India must often send his wife and family, during the hot weather, into the hills, and when the children are of school age an officer has, 753 in addition, to remit considerable sums for their education in this country. Further, in 1919, when the new scales of pay were fixed, the official exchange of the rupee was 2s. It had been considerably higher and it was expected that it would remain at or about that figure. It fell to 1s. 4d., thereby imposing on all officers who had to remit to this country an additional remittance of rupees of 50 per cent, as compared with that which they had to make when their salaries were fixed.
The brief recapitulation of these facts, that the cost of living had greatly increased, that the salaries had not been increased, that the cost of passages and remittances had all greatly increased, proves. I think, a case for the liberal treatment of the Indian Services which no reasonable or just-minded man who gives his attention to it impartially could possibly repudiate. On the basis of that situation Lord Lee's Commission was appointed and went to India. It has made recommendations which I need not go into. In addition to the very admirable and useful recommendation on which the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, has laid emphasis—the provision for placing the recruiting of the Services on a better basis and for establishing a public Service Commission it also made recommendations with regard to pay. Here I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Lee, upon the fact, for which he very justly took credit to his Commission, that it was a unanimous report of both the Indian and English members.
They made recommendations which, so far as I can form any judgment upon them, I am bound to say seem to me to be extremely moderate, in satisfaction of what I have called the just and reasonable claims of Indian civilians. First of all, what was recommended with regard to conditions of Service was an improvement in the pay of the Indian Police Service destined to bring it more nearly to the level of the other All-India Services other than the Indian Civil Service. Secondly, they recommend improvements in the pay of the All-India Services generally and of Services comparable with them. These are an increase of 50 rupees a month from the age when an officer may be expected to marry. Consideration was 754 given to the fact that possibly the younger members of the Services were highly paid in comparison with the older members of the Services who had to meet these increased charges of which I have spoken. The right to remit ail overseas pay to this country at the special rate of 2s. to the rupee was also recommended. With the rupee at 1s. 4d. these two concessions may be taken from the twelfth year of service to be equivalent to about 200 rupees a month, or £160 a year addition to salaries. The increase is less for officers of less than twelve years' service.
In addition to this, recommendations were made for the acceleration of the Indianisation of the Services, thus meeting what it is perhaps very necessary to meet in view of the check to English recruiting, the demand of the Indians for the recruiting of their own nationals in an accelerated degree. Those are the recommendations which the noble, Viscount, Lord Lee, and his colleagues are satisfied are the minimum of what is equitable and necessary to meet those just claims of the Services.
Now I want to answer the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Lee, and the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, put to me as to what is being done. I must go back to the undertakings that have been given in this matter. It was indicated in the summer of 1923 that—as indeed was reasonably to be expected—the Legislative Assembly would desire to discuss the Report, if possible, before final orders on it were passed. The Government of India on their side, equally reasonably, were anxious to meet that desire so far as possible. At the same time, they explained then, and again in March last, that, in the words of the Home Member, they—could not, either as an Assembly or as the Government of India, limit the constitutional and statutory powers of the Secretary of State in this respect; and if there should he matters pressed upon him by the Royal Commission which might require immediate orders, then it would he necessary to recognise his power to take a decision in advance of any decision by the Assembly.That is what Sir Malcolm Hailey stated.
The Report was published on May 27 last and the Assembly, which met on the same day, again pressed for an opportunity of discussion before official orders should be passed. Speaking in your 755 Lordships' House on June 3, I said this to your Lordships—I hope very much that the Viceroy may find it possible to dispose of the discussion of this Report in the Assembly which is now being held, and I have already pressed upon the Viceroy, as strongly as I could, my sense, and that of my Council, of the urgency of dealing with the matter as quickly as possible, in view of the considerations to which the Viceroy himself has called attention.I showed my noble friend Lord Lee the telegrams which I had sent to the Viceroy to that effect—I have no doubt whatever that Lord Reading will do all he can to secure the earliest possible expression in a sufficient manner of the views of the Assembly. He knows the feeling of His Majesty's Government upon the subject, and he will, subject to the obstacles standing in his way, be disposed to press forward the matter as quickly as possible.It was at that time hoped that an opportunity would be found to debate the Report in the special Session of the Assembly which was then proceeding. The time available, however, both for examination of the Report by members and for its discussion in the special Session, was found to be so limited that it became apparent (hat some further opportunity of discussion in the Assembly would be desired and that this desire could not reasonably be demurred to. The Viceroy expressed to me his opinion that the contemplated debate in the Assembly should not be brought on before the September Session.
A Resolution was moved in the Assembly on June 10 in the following terms:—(1) That it is impossible for this House during this Session to devote to the Lee Commission Report, which was published on the 27th May, the attention that it requires for a careful and thorough examination of its proposals in all their aspects and bearings, and that for this purpose it is absolutely necessary to afford further time to this House till the September Session.(2) That the interval of three months asked for by the House for consideration of the many important issues involved will neither cause any hardship to the Services, which will obtain any financial relief that may be eventually decided upon with effect from the 1st April, nor affect public interests by impeding recruitment for the Services during this year, which may proceed on existing lines.(3) That any attempt to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee without giving adequate time to this House and country to form an opinion upon proposals of a far-reaching character, with their inevitable repercussions on other Departments 756 and Services, is bound to be resented as exhibiting a supreme disregard of Indian public opinion and to provoke feelings of widespread discontent.After discussion the debate on the Resolution was adjourned by general consent, including that of the Government of India, until September next.
It must be remembered that at the date when the reservations were made in the Assembly as to the Secretary of State's power to pass early orders on urgent recommendations, at that date the purport of the Report was not known either to the Secretary of State or to the Government of India; and it was a presumable contingency that the Report might contain recommendations on which it would be expedient to take action successively in some order of priority, as had in fact been done in the case of the Report of the Commission of the noble Lord, Lord Islington, on the Public Services in India. When, however, the noble Lord's Commission submitted its Report, it became apparent that this method of procedure would not be appropriate. Both I myself in Council and the Government of India adopted the view of the Commission, that its Report must be treated as a whole; and, therefore, even apart from any question of the claims or the position of the Assembly in the matter, the passing of urgent orders on any important recommendation, or group of recommendations, could not be decided on in advance of full consideration of the content and implications of the Commission's proposals as a balanced whole. The procedure proper to be adopted fell, therefore, into this form—that the Secretary of State in Council, the Government of India in conference with the Provincial Governments, and the members of the Assembly, should simultaneously examine the Report as a whole of interdependent parts, and that when the Secretary of State in Council and the Government if India should have framed their provisional conclusions on the Report, the opinions of the representatives in the Assembly should also be ventilated before those conclusions should be crystallised into orders.
The Secretary of State for India in Council, who is, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, the final arbiter responsible to Parliament in regard to practically the whole field covered by the Report, 757 must necessarily subject the Report to a thorough examination on points both of principle and detail. The mere fact that he, as stated, accepts the view that the Report must be treated as a whole cannot, of course, in any way absolve him from the duty of examining the Report in all its bearings, or commit him in advance to the acceptance of each and every recommendation just as it stands. He must also use the occasion to determine which of the recommendations in their relation to the Report as a whole, will, from their nature, require priority of treatment when the time comes to implement his decisions.
Secondly, this task cannot be carried through without close consultation with the Government of India and, through the latter, with the Provincial Governments, who will be very directly concerned with the major recommendations of the Report. The investigation has been and is being pushed ahead with all possible expedition; but although the speed will, it is hoped, be found to compare very favourably with the rate of progress achieved on similar occasions in the past, no one who knows the magnitude of the issues involved would expect that a Secretary of State, who takes the Report at all seriously, could possibly be in a position to pass final orders upon it as a whole within a space of two or three months. It may, therefore, confidently he said that no avoidable delay will have occurred if orders are passed within six months of the appearance of the Report; and that the promise of a discussion in the Assembly, quite apart from its great importance from the constitutional point of view, will not in fact be found to have affected the date by which the final decisions are taken. That promise was certainly never intended, nor does it appear to be in the least likely, to create any delay which might in its absence have been avoided.
Thirdly, no one can ignore the great stress laid by the Commission on their recommendation that their financial proposals should take effect as from the commencement of the financial year 1924–25. Prominence was given to this recommendation in the terms of the Resolution discussed in the Assembly on June 10.
The Report came under examination at the India Office on the day of its appear 758 ance, and no time was lost in entering into active consultation with the Government of India. Among the special points upon which attention has been concentrated may be mentioned the following: Uŕgent questions immediately arose as to continuing or suspending in the current year recruitment for various branches of the Services whose future would be directly affected by the recommendations in the Report. In three instances, the Educational, Agricultural and Veterinary Services, the transfer of which to Provincial Governments has been recommended in the Report, it has been decided to suspend recruitment in this country for the present—without prejudice, of course, to resuming it if that should be decided upon. Recruitment for these Services does not take place at a fixed lime, but as occasion demands, when vacancies or other reasons for recruitment occur. The case of the other Services had to be examined from a similar standpoint. As regards the Indian Service of Engineers, the Forest Service and the Geological Survey, the Government of India have stated their requirements, and selection committees either have met or will be meeting shortly to interview candidates. No difficulty is anticipated in obtaining them.
As regards the two pivotal Services, the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police, there is to be no suspension of the Indian Civil Service open competition in London which will be held in August as usual. The examination for the Police Service has already been held, and there is no reason to suppose that there will be any greater difficulty this year than last in securing the full number of recruits needed to meet the requirements of the Governments in India.
Secondly, it has also been necessary to explore thoroughly the legal aspects of the Commission's Report. The Commissioners themselves stated the belief that their recommendations could be carried into effect without any amendment of the Government of India Act, but the Secretary of State is, of course, obliged to satisfy himself that this holds true not only of the recommendations in themselves, but of any corollary proposals to which they may lead. Thirdly, the Report contains a number of recommendations of varying importance upon which provisional conclusions can be 759 formed without the probability of their being affected by the ultimate decisions on the main lines of the Report. A process of selecting and docketing the separate recommendations is therefore being carried on in order to clear the ground when the time comes to take the final decisions on the Report as a whole. That is the best reply I can give to the inquiry of the noble Viscount as to whether we are taking every possible step to clear the ground. I can assure him we are taking all the steps that we find it possible to take.
The second topic upon which the noble Viscount enquired was as to the situation which has arisen in certain Provincial Councils. First of all, with regard to the Central Provinces, I will briefly recapitulate the position which has arisen. In the Central Provinces the Legislative Council refused in March last to consider any of the legislative measures laid before it, and rejected the whole of the local Government's demands for grants for the financial year 1924–25. Stated briefly, the position is that the Ministry have resigned since the Council has refused to vote them salaries, and the Governor himself assumed the duty of administering the Transferred Departments under the provisions of the Transferred Subjects (Temporary Administration) Rules. He has declared that a state of emergency exists. The local Government, acting under the powers conferred by proviso (a) to Section 72D (2) of the Government of India Acts, has restored the whole of the appropriations originally proposed to the Legislative Council in respect of Reserved Departments—approximately 297 lakhs—with the exception of sums amounting to Rs.1,21,277, representing new expenditure for development chiefly in the Forest Department; and the Governor acting under proviso (b) to the same subsection has authorised expenditure for the financial year in respect of Transferred Departments amounting to Rs. 153,20,044—a sum less by Es.12,29,950 than that originally budgeted for, the curtailment being spread over the Departments.
The Governor does not intend to dissolve his Legislative Council, nor to summon it to meet in the immediate future, being of opinion that Dissolution would not result in the election of a Council with a different policy or outlook, and that it is useless to invite further action from 760 a body which has shown itself determined not to legislate. The Governor considers, moreover, that the administration can be continued without immediate damage in the absence of the legislative measures which have been rejected by the Council, or of further legislative projects.
A further question arises which the noble Viscount has asked me in regard to what action we contemplate taking to relieve that transitional and temporary situation. Perhaps I had better deal with that and the question of the Bengal Legislature as well. I will give the answer to both together. With regard to the Bengal Legislature matters have been a little more interesting. The total strength of the Bengal Legislative Council is 140, of whom 114 are elected members. Of the twenty-six nominated and ex-oficio members, seventeen are officials. Of the 114 elected seats the Swarajist Party secured some thirty-seven, and at an early date some thirteen members, who described themselves as Independents, declared their intention of supporting the Swarajists, who thus secured a minimum of about 50 votes. During the course of the Session they obtained other adherents, but still not an absolute majority of the Council. It will be observed that the voting of the Budget commenced on March 19 and ended on April I with the following results. Supply was refused altogether for all Reserved Subjects, except Police and European Education, and the demands under these two heads were reduced.
The Governor has restored the allotment budgeted for in the case of all the demands which were rejected in toto, minus, however, the sum of 5 lakhs, proposed as a contribution to the Calcutta Corporation towards the cost of a water supply project. He has also restored 6¾ lakhs of the 8 lakhs odd cut from the Police Budget, the sums not restored being 1 lakh on account of cots and mosquito nets for the police and Rs. 24,000 on account of the pay of deputy superintendents. The sum of Rs. 99,000, representing grants to European primary schools, will be paid out of other provision which was voted for this purpose, and, if necessary, a supplementary grant placed before the Council later in the year.
The majorities by which these rejections or reductions were made were as follows: In four cases, one vote; in one 761 case, two votes; in two cases, four votes; in two cases, five votes; and in one case, ten votes. In one case the Council rejected by four votes a Motion for total rejection, and immediately afterwards rejected by one vote the original Motion that the demand be granted. The Votes for Supply for Transferred Subjects were carried without reduction by majorities varying from one vote to eight votes, except in the following cases: (1), Ministers' Salaries, rejected in toto by 63 votes to 62; (2), Education, provision for inspecting officers' salaries, reduced from Rs. 7,46,000 to Rs. 1,11,500 by six votes: (3), Medical, provision of Rs. 588.000 for 161 civil surgeons, assistant surgeons and sub-assistant surgeons, and for 135 clerical officers, was rejected by one vote. As regards the third of these cases, as the services of the medical officers concerned are utilised also in the Gaols' Department (a Reserved Department) and as their retention is essential for that purpose, provision for their salaries has been transferred to the Gaols' Budget, and a demand to secure provision for them in that capacity will be placed before the Council at its next Session. Should that be rejected the Governor will presumably restore the amount.
It had been the intention of the Bengal Government to re-submit the other two Votes (Ministers' Salaries and Education Inspection Staff), in accordance with a request expressed from certain quarters within and without the Council itself, for reconsideration at a Session which was to have been held on July 7. But this intention has been temporarily frustrated by the action of the High Court at Calcutta which, on the motion of two members of the Council, has issued an injunction restraining the President from putting the Motion relating to Ministers' salaries. This is one of the disadvantages of having a statutory constitution as distinguished from a constitution of our own character. Meanwhile, the Ministers have not resigned, and have up to date retained office without salary, and the Bengal Government have given notice of dismissal to the 357 educational officers for whose salary provision has been refused, which will not take effect until such time as the matter can be brought again before the Council.
762 I desire to say a few words with regard to the injunction granted in the High Court. In the first place the injunction was based on the fret that the Council's rules of procedure provide only for (a) the initial voting of the Budget demands, and (b) for the voting of excess, or additional, or supplementary demands for the purpose of covering expenditure actually incurred in excess of a Budget Vote, or for obtaining funds for which the original Vote is found to be insufficient, or which are required for purposes not anticipated when the Budget was framed. Secondly, the injunction was granted on the assumption that these rules of procedure exhaust the Council's powers, and consequently debar the reconsideration of a Vote once definitely rejected or reduced. This assumption does not tally with the intentions of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament as expressed in their Report on the Government of India Bill. They considered that the Governor, if so advised by his Ministers, should be at liberty to resubmit a Budget Vote on a Transferred Subject, which the Council had cut down or rejected, for consideration by the Council, and thought that no specific provision was necessary for this purpose.
The Government of India and the Secretary of State agree in thinking that the Rules referred to do not, in fact, preclude such a Motion, but in order to remove doubts on the subject, and incidentally to remove the grounds for the High Court's injunction, they have now amended the Rules. Meanwhile, the Bengal Government have appealed against the High Court's order, and I an considering the situation created by the intervention of the High Court in matters proceeding before the Legislative Council in India. I cannot speak definitely as to what action the Governor of Bengal will take because he is still in correspondence and consultation with the Viceroy upon the subject, and the Viceroy reports to me as to what is being done. But I understand the Governor proposes, as soon as he can, to reintroduce the Vote for the Ministers' salaries and also the Vote for the inspectorate, subject to any curtailment he might make on the ground of a pledge given in the Council that certain recommendations as to the transfer of part of the inspectorate to local bodies should be carried out. The Government thinks it reasonable that the recommendation 763 for retrenchment of the staff and transferring it to local bodies should be had regard to before the amount of the Vote to be resubmitted is determined.
The question arises as to what procedure the Government should take to bring to an end this position in the Central Provinces and Bengal, which is only legal under the theory that it is a position of emergency; and the question also arises whether the Governor should exercise his power to suspend the transfer or revoke the transfer. That is now under the consideration of the Viceroy with the Governor of Bengal.
§ LORD OLIVIER
Yes. The question as to what further course of action may be taken is now under consideration. With regard to the propriety of it I think it is established that the Governor may reasonably act in such a manner. It must lie assumed that the intention of the Government of India Act is that Transferred Departments are transferred for the purpose of being responsibly administered by a Council that would deal with the merits of the particular Votes on the grounds of the public interest only, and not upon the; grounds of some constitutional purpose which they had in mind in order to put pressure on the Government of India. I do not know how far that agrees with the constitutional theory in this country that grievances must be redressed before Supply is granted, which may be the view of Indian politicians. But having regard to the fact that we have a statutory Constitution established for certain definite objects it does, I think, speaking as a layman, appear to be a perfectly reasonable construction of the Government of India Act.
The noble Viscount has made an inquiry in regard to the situation in the Punjab. The, situation in the Punjab continues to be disquieted by the turbulent proceedings of the Akali Sikhs. There is little new to be said. I have referred to the statement I made on this subject in your Lordships' House on February 26, and I consider it gives what is still a correct and sufficient account of the origin and significance of these troubles. I will not take up your Lordships' time by repeating that statement. It is necessary to realise that there has been, and can be, 764 no question of the Government intervening on any issue which can honestly be described as purely religious. Government intervention has been confined to the upholding of the civil law, to the restoration and maintenance of the public peace, and to endeavours to promote a settlement of differences which threaten the peace.
In so far as their intervention has brought them into conflict with the present leaders of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee, whom I will hereafter call the Shrines Committee, the conflict is not of the Government's seeking and cannot be said to relate to any purely religious issue. It would hardly be true to say that even when that conflict first began the motives of its promoters were exclusively religions, and there has unquestionably been throughout, even on the part of the most moderate of the Akali leaders, a desire to consolidate, and advance the political power of the Sikhs in the Punjab. The interest fomented in regard to the question of the resignation of the Maharaja of Nabha, and the willingness of the Shrines Committee to accept assistance from the Indian National Congress, make it impossible to pretend that the issue is entirely religious and non-political. But the religious and political factors have now, in fact, become completely entangled with one another, and this fact constitutes the real difficulty before the Government. The Shrines Committee is in control of the Akal Takht and any order proceeding from that centre will carry the authority of a religious duty with the majority of the Sikh population, whatever its real basis or implication.
In the various issues that have arisen from time to time between the Punjab Government and the Sikhs, the Government have honestly endeavoured to separate religious from other issues, and it will be obviously the duty of that Government to continue the same endeavour in the future. For the moment, it is sufficient to observe that the great bulk of the rural Sikhs do actually seem to have been persuaded that Government is hostile to their religious interests. On the other hand, there are some indications that the situation is in course of improvement. It is evident that there has been considerable difficulty in finding recruits for the Jathas. averaging about 1,000 strong, which it has 765 been the programme of the committee to send periodically to claim entrance to the Shrine at Jaito. The Governments primary objective has been, and is, to encourage, with the motive I have stated, a settlement of the religious question, and to promote an agreement among the Sikhs as to the control and use of the shrines, in dealing with the legal titles to which the first troubles arose.
General Birdwood, whose understanding and sympathy in regard to Sikh sensibilities must stand beyond question, was recently occupied on behalf of the Government of India in making a special effort to endeavour to arrange with the representatives of the Sikhs for the establishment of an authoritative committee with legal powers to regulate all such questions, but unfortunately these negotiations have failed, as did the similar previous attempt of the Government. The noble Viscount inquired what were the reasons for their failure, and he suggested that they were two, one being the uncompromising demand on the part of the Sikhs that all prisoners who were in custody on charges arising out of the previous quarrel should be released, and the other the demand that the Maharajah of Nabha should be restored to his Principality. I have not the actual text before me, but I think it is quite safe to say that both of those claims were made by the Akalis, and it is obvious that, in the form in which they were made, they were claims that could not be granted. How far they were whittled down I cannot say at the moment, but difficulties of that character were apparently the only difficulties that stood in the way of an agreement—difficulties, that is to say, not arising out of the difficulty of making arrangements to deal with the religious interests of the Sikhs, but out of past political matters in which the Government had come into opposition with the Sikhs.
In present circumstances no new course of action and no resort to extraordinary powers is contemplated. The Punjab Government, with the approval of the Government of India, intend to maintain order and peaceful security by consistent application of the law against all offenders, while neglecting no means of arriving at a speedy and equitable solution with regard to the matters in controversy.
766 Now I come to that which is perhaps the largest and most important question upon which the noble Viscount desired information.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not know whether the noble Lord intends to make any observation about Mr. C. P. Das, but I should he very glad to hear what he has to say on that point.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I had thought that the subject of Mr. C. P. Das, to which the noble Viscount referred, came later in his speech, but I will deal with it immediately. The noble Viscount has called attention to the imputations laid against Mr. C. P. Das of being associated with a revolutionary organisation believed to exist in Bengal for the promotion of outrage and murder, or at least of conniving at its proceedings, or of approval of the motives of Gopi Nath Saha, who assassinated Mr. Day, a police officer, by mistake for Mr. Tegart, another police officer.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I am obliged to the, noble Viscount. Mr. C. P. Das is the leader of the Swaraj political Party in the Bengal Legislature, and in the Indian National Congress. I am informed by a high authority in Indian politics that he has the reputation of being a particularly upright and scrupulous politician, second only to Gandhi himself in saintliness of I character. He is unquestionably a man of high and admirable ideals on behalf of his country which he has finely and uncompromisingly expressed. For a sympathetic appreciation of his spirit and his aims, I beg leave to refer to the very interesting and informing article contributed by the noble Earl, Lord Ronaldshay, to the July number of the Nineteenth Century review. The political attitude and proceedings of Mr. Das, in the light of all the study that I have been able to make of them, appear to me to present a typical illustration of methods and reactions quite familiar in the development of a struggle for political evolution in the direction of self-governing national institutions.
Mr. Das appears to be one of those Indian publicists—and he is only one among many—who are convinced, or who 767 are very near to being convinced, that no advance can be made in the attainment of self-government or political liberty by any nation or community that is under the rule of Great Britain except through appeal to organised force or, failing this, to secret methods aiming at outrage. Politicians of this school constantly point to the history of the dealings of this country with the Home Rule movement in Ireland as furnishing the most familiar and crucial illustrations of their theories. Further, they argue that a sufficient threat of force, even without its exercise, will always intimidate British Governments. In this connection they invariably begin by referring to the evidence of a similar persuasion on the part of politicians of the highest predisposition to legality who, in anticipation of possible action distasteful to them in regard to the Government of Ulster, thought it expedient and perfectly proper to organise armed force—
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I hesitate, to interrupt the Secretary of State, but will he inform me whether he is giving us his own opinions, or reading the opinions of somebody else: The point is very material.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I am stating what is the invariable argument used by Indian politicians in defence of their theory that Great Britain will never do anything unless there is a threat of armed force, and will always do something if there is a threat of armed force.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
That means that the noble Lord, as Secretary of State, is giving his own version of the motives which he believes to actuate a particular section of the Indian community in this matter, with a view, as I understand, to condoning the action which Mr. Das has taken. Am I justified in that interpretation?
§ LORD OLIVIER
The noble Marquess is not justified in saying that I make the suggestion in order to condone it. I am giving the noble Marquess what is, m fact, continually being put up to me by Indians as an explanation of what they believe. I am not condoning it.
THE MARQUESS CUBZON OF KEDLESTON
What we want is your own opinion. We do not want your version 768 of the motives by which they are actuated. We want the opinion of the Secretary of State.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I think it is pertinent to the matter that I should describe the mentality which I have met with in this connection. I have seen it suggested in the Press, but I do not on that evidence think it necessary to accept any such assertion without full proof, that Mr. C. R. Das is actually so far associated with members of the revolutionary organisation in Bengal that an understanding has been arrived at, not only that he should not denounce their proceedings, but that he should give them countenance and assistance. In the episode to which the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, has referred, Mr. Das appears unquestionably to have associated himself with the support of a-resolution which, although it did not expressly go so far as to approve the assassination of Mr. Day, expressed an admiration for the character and motives of the assassin which has been, and not unnaturally, generally interpreted as implying a commendation of his deed. After the resolution referred to had appeared in the Press in its actual original form, an amended and altered version of it was published, touched up by inserting a phrase intended to dissociate the eulogy from the character of the action itself, and to confine it to the motives and mentality of the assassin, who, it may be observed, had pleaded that he was not of sound mind when he committed the murder.
It seems to me hardly unfair to suspect of Mr. Das that he has at any rate believed it expedient that the British public should be a little frightened as to what may be likely to happen in India if the policy of his Party is not given way to. Mr. Gandhi and many of Mr. Das' own political Party have taken a far more serious view of his position than that, and have shown a very lively spirit of indignation and protest. It is not necessary for the British Government to assume in this connection an attitude of high moral condemnation of Mr. Das as a politician on this account. The operations of secret murder societies are detestable, and occasionally, in their effects, atrocious. They impose a constant strain on the vigilance of the police. But they are not in themselves a political force, nor do they ultimately strengthen 769 any political Party that dallies with them. It has been the continual policy of the Party to which I belong to repudiate and condemn all such forcible methods, quite independently of their moral turpitude, on the ground of their foolishness and their futility.
My right hon. friend the Prime Minister, before he was called upon to take office, issued a most friendly, sincere and sympathetically wise warning to Indian politicians to stand aloof from all such insane methods. In so far as Mr. Das has allowed his name and influence to be associated with them—and it is clear that the event to which the noble Viscount has referred has caused a considerable disturbance of feeling amongst Indian reformers—I imagine that Mr. Das and his associates, in their delusion that Indian revolutionaries can frighten the British Government out of its senses by bombing policemen, having failed to do so by attempting to bomb a Viceroy, must be already beginning to recognise the political wisdom of Mr. MacDonald's advice. The incident is only another example, of the, political simplicity which has been shown in Mr. Das' leadership in the Bengal Assembly. In that Assembly the Swaraj Party, not being able actually to lead or to procure a majority of votes for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, organised the purchase for cash of the requisite balances either of votes or abstentions, to enable them to win the narrow divisions which they did. This fact is notorious.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
May I ask the noble Lord this specific question, which I think I did ask in my speech. Quite apart from any moral condemnation of the action of Mr. C. R. Das, is the noble Lord prepared, in view of his admission and the obvious fact that these statements were a definite incitement to murder, to take any action or not?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It is whether, in view of the admission that this statement definitely amounted to an incitement to murder, His Majesty's Government propose to take any action or not.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am speaking of the noble Lord's moral condemnation of these statements, and the obvious fact that they are an incitement to murder, and I ask whether he contemplates taking any action.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I do not say that the noble Lord said so, but I referred to his moral condemnation of these acts, and also to the obvious fact that they were an incitement to murder, and I ask whether, whatever may be his own personal view—and I want a definite answer to my question—he does or does not intend to take any action.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I am not intending to take any action whatever. A certain resolution applauding the character of a young man who had committed a murder was passed at a public meeting by the vote of the Party of which Mr. Das is leader. Mr. Das did not pass the resolution, which was simply recorded as passed by the Party. How far that may justify the Government of India in taking action under the criminal law is a question for the Government of India to decide. I cannot presume to say that I am going to give instructions in the matter.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Is the noble Lord aware that Mr. Das, in his newspaper Forward, printed a statement very similar to the resolution?
§ LORD OLIVIER
Mr. Das, I believe said he would maintain his opinion of the intrepid or noble character of the young, man who did the murder. Whether that is an incitement to murder or not, is not for me to pronounce, but it is a question for the criminal law, and it is for the Government of India to take such action as it may be advised. There is no obligation upon me to move in the matter.
§ LORD OLIVIER
They have not reported to me any intention of taking any action. I cannot say that they do not intend to take action, but they have not reported their intention to me. To continue my statement, certain operations of what I 771 suppose may be called the political Whip have been deposed to before a magistrate, and when I have spoken on this subject to a well-informed Indian politician he has laughingly acknowledged that the facts might be as reputed, but justified the proceedings as being a fair response to what were considered to be the underhand and unfair proceedings of the bureaucracy, the Government of India and the British Government, in opposition to the reformers. Now, it would be absurd on our part, remembering our Parliamentary past, to say that the Swarajist Party in the Bengal Assembly are sinners above all politicians. But what I wish again to emphasise is the political futility of the methods of the Swarajist Party in the Bengal Legislature, and possibly elsewhere, as a means of attaining their immediate ostensible objects.
Their programme is to prove the Montagu-Chelmsford reform scheme a failure, and to bring the British Government to its knees by making the carrying on of government constitutionally impossible. They appeal, at some thousands of miles distance, to democratic politicians to denounce the overruling of the popular will by the autocratic action of the Government. Such demonstrations as have been made in the Bengal Legislature, in so far as they are procured by methods of corruption or intimidation. not only are not demonstrations of the popular will, but are demonstrations of the fact that the legislators who are so influenced have no will at all of their own, except a will to profit, and that any number of such politicians may be disregarded with complete equanimity as representing no kind of power. The significance and importance of a vote in a Parliamentary Election, or in a Parliament rest only upon the will or spirit in which it is given. If it is given on account of bribery or on account of fear, those who are responsible for, and who are entrusted with the power to carry on, the King's Government, know very well that they have no real force whatever to contend with, but only something which can be bought or frightened.
On this account, even if the machinery of government had been brought to a deadlock, it could not have been said that this had been done by the popular will; but as a matter of fact the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution is not proved a 772 failure by such proceedings, nor has government been brought to a deadlock. The Reform Constitution was designed to enable public questions to be dealt with by elected bodies on considerations of public interest germane to the particular subject at issue; that is to say, the policy of any particular vote. When a vote is given not on the merits of the particular service at issue, but for political sabotage, the Government is not only morally justified in entirely disregarding it as being mere irrelevance, but is constitutionally justified by the intention and legal form of the Indian Constitution, which was so framed as to protect the proper responsible Government of the country from being hampered by merely wrecking tactics, designed to intimidate.
I now come to the question with regard to the intentions of the Government as to any action arising out of the Inquiry into the Reforms. Your Lordships will remember that on February 13 a Resolution was carried in the Assembly recommending the revision of the Government of India Act, with a view to establishing full responsible Government, and, for the purpose, the summoning of a round-table Conference to frame a now Constitution, with a view to its ultimate enactment by Parliament. The Government of India could not accept that Resolution, lu speaking in the debate on this Resolution Sir Malcolm Hailey, on behalf of the Government of India, made two pronouncements, of which the following are the most important passages. On February 8 he said:We do not limit ourselves to demanding that the system should be further tested. We propose to make a serious attempt to investigate justifiable complaints against the working of the scheme in practice, to assess the causes and to examine the remedies necessary. We claim that this must precede any general inquiry into the policy and scheme of the Act itself, or general advance within the Act itself.The noble Viscount intimated a desire to be informed why that action was taken at all.
I tried to explain on February 26 that the Government of India was confronted by representations by the prominent political Party in India that the Government of India Act was entirely unworkable and unacceptable. The Government at home also were met by representations that there were difficulties in the working of the Act which it was well to look into. 773 Being faced, on behalf of the Swarajist Party in India, with a demand for a revision of the Constitution, the Government of India took the position of saying: "It is ridiculous that you, who have not cooperated in the first years of the Assembly, who have come into the second Assembly in order to obstruct, should present a pistol at our heads and ask us immediately to allow you to formulate a now Constitution. Before we are willing to consider whether there is anything presumable against the new Constitution, indeed, before any kind of consideration can be given to the criticisms of the Swaraj Party, surely there, must be some case made out that the Constitution has in any respect worked inconveniently, or that it has worked inconveniently in respects in which it cannot be amended."
The view of His Majesty's Government and of the Government of India was that adequate satisfaction would be given to the demands of any reasonable critics if, in view of the very general allegation—not confined to the Swaraj Party, but shared in by the Independents and Moderates, and also shared in by a good many persons of the European community, some officials and some non-officials—that the scheme of diarchy was not working satisfactorily, a judicial Inquiry was set up, at which it could be seen whether any evidence could be given against the working of the Act. A Committee was set up, and in the first instance it was a Committee consisting of officials, to lay down what were the modes in which, having regard to the drafting of the Act, any modifications of established provisions could be made, either by Rule or otherwise. That was a purely formal operation. The second Committee set up was an enlarged Committee, including a certain number of non-officials—more non-officials, in fact, than officials.
However, I think I had better come back to the second statement made by Sir Malcolm Hailey, on February 18. He said:—Before His Majesty's Government are able to consider the question of amending the Constitution, as distinct from such amendments of the Act as are necessary to rectify any administrative imperfections, there must be a full investigation of any defects or difficulties which may have arisen in the transitional Constitution. If our Inquiry into the defects of the. working of the Act shows the feasibility and the possibility of any advance within the Act—that is 774 to say, by the use of the rule-making power provided by Parliament under the Statute—we are willing to make recommendations to this effect. But, if our Inquiry shows that no advance is possible without amending the Constitution, then the question of advance must be left as an entirely open and separate issue on which Government is in no way committed. To that extent the scope of our Inquiry goes somewhat beyond that originally assigned DO it; but I must again emphasise the fact that it does not extend beyond that scope to the amendment of the Constitution itself.Those announcements were referred to by me in my speech in this House on February 26.
The action taken by the Government of India in order to implement the undertaking given by Sir Malcolm Hailey was as follows:—They first of all appointed an official "Expert" Committee, and on receipt from that Committee of their preliminary Report, the Government of India reconstituted the Committee by the addition of representative non-officials, and gave it the following terms of reference:(1) To inquire into the difficulties arising from, or defects inherent in, the working of the Government of India Act and the Rules thereunder, and(2) To investigate the feasibility and desirability of securing remedies for such difficulties or defects, consistent with the structure, policy, and purpose of the Act—We are, then, putting the case of the plaintiffs against the Act to the test, and we are inquiring, as profoundly as possible, whether there is really anything to be said against the Montagu-Chelms-ford Constitution on the ground that it is unworkable, or that it works in a manner disadvantageous to the public interest. It is inquired: What will that lead you to? Sir Malcolm Hailey said on the results of this Inquiry it must be left entirely an open question whether any further action must be taken. I do claim that the Government may have credit for endeavouring to maintain a judicial attitude upon this position.
- (a) by action taken under the Act and Rules, or
- (b) by such amendments of the Act as appear necessary to rectify any administrative imperfection."
As soon as we had set up this Inquiry in India the British Government and the Government of India were immediately attacked as having made no concession whatever to legitimate popular demands, but as having set up an official Committee to bind more closely upon India 775 the chains of the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution. We were attacked, on the other side, by suspicious journalists and others in India on the ground that we were opening the door to an immediate modification of the Constitution, and had practically given encouragement to the Swarajists to think that the Constitution would be modified. The position of the Government is entirely a judicial one. I have had innumerable representations—two or three hundred people have interviewed me on the subject of the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution—and I have had all manner of grades of assurances as to its workability and as to its unworkability. I do not propose to indicate in the slightest degree the effect of all these representations upon my mind.
As the noble Marquess urged that we should do, we have entrusted the next step in dealing with constitutional questions in India to the Viceroy and to his Council, and under his advice and in accordance with his recommendations we are proceeding. Whether there is, or is not, a case for establishing that the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms are really unworkable, as is claimed by almost every Progressive politician in India.—not only the Swarajists—is a matter upon which His Majesty's Government are not in a position to form a judgment, and upon which a judgment can only be formed after the Viceroy has had all his Reports from his Provincial Governors and that Committee has gone thoroughly into the case and the evidence has been heard and considered.
The first purpose of that Committee, as the terms of its reference show, is to consider whether there are any defects in the working of the Act which can be remedied by Rules made under the Act, and the second is to consider whether there are any defects in the working of the Act, in its effect on the work of the Government, which can be remedied by alterations in the structure of the Act itself, without really altering the principle of the Constitution. I think that even the most rigidly minded of noble Lords opposite would say that it was a perfectly reasonable proceeding on the part of the Government and the Government of India to consider whether the Act itself could not be so utilised as to make its working more satisfactory. But, of course, I cannot deny that if the 776 result of the labours of that Committee should be to find that there are certain defects in the working of government under the provisions of that, Act, which apparently cannot be remedied by any amendment of Rules, or by any amendments of the Act short of an alteration of the Constitution, then a question would arise as to whether any further steps should or ought to be taken for dealing with the question whether any further constitutional advance can be contemplated. Then, and then only, would there arise the question: In what way could such a question be dealt with?
The proposal of the Swaraj Party in the Assembly, as I have stated, was on the basis that they, the representatives of the Indian people, are entitled to draft and prescribe their own Constitution and to have a round-table conference for the purpose. A proposal that was mooted in the other House was that a Royal Commission should be sent out to investigate the constitutional situation. There may be other alternatives, but on none of those alternatives have His Majesty's Government come to any conclusion. They only recognise, and they cannot fail to recognise, that it is just possible that the result of this Inquiry may impose upon them the duty of coming to such a conclusion—that is to say, as to whether some steps should or should not be taken to re-examine the constitutional position. That will be the position if, and only if, it is proved to the satisfaction of the Government of India that there are certain defects, certain legitimate grounds for complaint in the operations of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, that cannot be redressed within the four corners of the Act without some revision of its provisions. That, I hope, is a satisfactory explanation of the position of His Majesty's Government. We are, at present conducting a judicial Inquiry in order that we may have evidence as to the operation of the Government of India Act. Until we have that evidence and the judgment of the Government of India upon it we can come to no decision ourselves as to whether the Government of India Act is operating well or not, and we cannot possibly come to any decision as to what further steps shall be taken as a result of that Inquiry.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Meston.)777
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly to Tuesday, July 29.